LPM: A Student’s Perspective- ECMO

“I realized that I learned what a vast difference it is to move from doing a case in the OR, to following up on a patient on a daily basis and monitoring their care.”


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Editor’s Note:

FA 2016

This is a continuation of a series with our newest associate editor, Shayla Johnson, who is currently enrolled in a perfusion program.  I asked her to join the editorial team because she reflects the passion and excitement that every perfusionist has- or otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

I am impressed that as a perfusion student she has the initiative to share her thoughts and impressions with us regarding the process of learning the art of perfusion technology from her own unique perspective:

“I am a first year perfusion student.I follow your facebook and website to stay updated on perfusion news from all around the world, and I love it. I saw the posting about needing bloggers and wanted to find out if you were interested in a student blogger. Either way, thank you for the work put into the website, it was valuable as I prepared to apply for my program as well as throughout it.

Thank you.”

Shayla Johnson

The name of the series is as above- LPM: A Student’s Perspective.  There is a slight play on the acronym as the L stands for Learning as opposed to a metric for Q.

As we all know- regardless of experience level- we all learn minute by minute.

Enjoy 🙂


Click here to view the entire LPM series

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Shayla Johnson

Shayla Johnson: Associate Editor


LPM: A Student’s Perspective

ECMO Patients

As students we learn about ECMO, the uses and the circuit and the differences between VV and VA ECMO. We go on our clinical rotations and we are exposed to a variety of circuits, some home-made and others that came as a whole kit together. Then we get to finally help put a patient on ECMO. It doesn’t count towards a case, and can be an overlooked part of our rotation experience, but one that I found extremely valuable. Many times a patient being brought in to be put on ECMO is an emergent case, where there isn’t much time. The circuit needs to be primed, cannulas pulled and ready, and the perfusionist may be juggling several tasks at once. As a student, this learning environment was crucial to really seeing what a perfusionist’s role truly can be.

During my rotation experience, I was fortunate enough to see a variety of ECMO cases and in fact follow several of the patient’s through to both good, and bad outcomes. I don’t need to write about the clinical aspect, as it can be read in a textbook. Instead, I realized that I learned what a vast difference it is to move from doing a case in the OR, to following up on a patient on a daily basis and monitoring their care.

I got to see how perfusionists interact with family staff. How they are part of the care team in an incredibly vital way. A patient on ECMO isn’t always sedated and asleep, and having seen that, it opened my eyes to a whole new side of the profession. I’ve been present for putting one patient on ECMO and then there when that same patient was de-cannulated in their room, while awake, and watched as they clutched the nurse’s hand. It’s a reminder that we aren’t always hidden from the personal experience of dealing with patients, and that’s a side of perfusion that I really enjoy.

On the converse side, I’ve seen the negative side, when things don’t go the way we want them to. When the perfusionist must tell the team that they are maxed out on how helpful ECMO can be, that there is nothing else for perfusion to do. Despite circuit-changes and switching from VV to VA ECMO, to crazy cannulation configurations. When everyone has done their best and yet there is nothing else to do. It’s difficult, having a patient on ECMO. They come in all ages, from babies to teens to adults, and they all have people who care about them. I’ve learned that no case is simple, that ECMO doesn’t just help them and then they are de-cannulated and fine. Patients may become septic, they may have coagulation problems, and they may need other procedures involving the perfusion team, such as Angiovac. They may come in on a balloon pump, have it taken out, and then placed back in again later.

Having an ECMO patient is never straightforward, and there are a plethora of learning experiences involved. For me, the ability to follow a patient through several procedures allowed me to gain a better understanding of their care as a whole and to better understand my role in it. I’m extremely grateful for the learning opportunities I experienced and the amazing measures I saw taken by all staff members to help save lives.

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